House panel wants answers on possible carrier cuts

“We believe as a global, maritime power, it is critical that we retain a fleet of 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers,” the lawmakers wrote. “Furthermore these aircraft carriers are essential to the combat commanders to execute their operational plans.”

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They asked Mabus to explain what are the risks to the current defense strategy with a smaller carrier fleet — a nod to the Pentagon’s plans to shift to the Pacific region — and how many carrier groups could be provided for deployments and surge.

They also requested an assessment of the impact to the shipbuilding and maintenance industrial base, which would feel the effects of a cut in carriers.

The Pentagon released its strategic review last month to look at how it would deal with continued cuts under sequestration. The Defense Department's proposed 2014 budget would be cut $52 billion if sequester remains on the books.